Coconut oil has become a darling of the whole food movement with good reason. It’s now considered a healthy fat and has antibacterial properties. It also tastes delicious in baked goods or slicked on vegetables before roasting. And who doesn’t love a hint of the tropics in the middle of winter?
Why Coconut Oil?
- Cooking with coconut oil, which is mainly a saturated fat, is ideal because it’s able to withstand higher temperatures than other oils (perfect for slathering on roasted veggies and using in stir fries).
- Although it’s a saturated fat, studies have shown that the saturated fat in coconut oil is mostly lauric acid, which means it has a more neutral effect on long-term heart health.
- Coconut oil can be substituted one for one with butter in baked goods, making the results taste a bit lighter and with a touch of coconut.
What Should I Buy?
There are two kind of coconut oil widely available commercially: “virgin” or “extra virgin” — or cold-pressed coconut oil — that contains antioxidants and has a stronger coconut flavor and aroma; and refined coconut oil — “expeller-pressed” — which is more processed and has a more neutral taste and scent and a higher smoke point than virgin. Both cold-pressed and expeller-pressed coconut oil can last about two years without refrigeration stored in a cool, dark place.
How Can I Use It?
Use refined coconut oil for pan frying: preheat the oil in the pan to 350℉-375℉ and try it in your favorite fried chicken recipe. Or toss vegetables in a tablespoon of coconut oil and roast until lightly browned. Saute your favorite protein and/or vegetables in coconut oil and serve atop a bed of brown rice laced with coconut milk. Vegans will love using coconut oil as a sub for butter in dessert recipes.
Remember that coconut oil has a melting point of 78 degrees, so if you’re in a warm climate your oil may be liquid at room temperature. To measure solid or chilled coconut oil, spoon into a measuring cup, pack it down, and then scrape a knife along the top to measure accurately. You may have to gently warm your coconut oil in the microwave or stove when a recipe calls for a liquid fat.
Everyday Recipes That Use Coconut Oil
- Swap one-for-one with butter or another oil in baked goods. You’ll usually need to melt your coconut oil before using it in your baking and when mixing with cold ingredients make sure to stir the oil in quickly so it doesn’t solidify.
- In your coffee, to give your morning cup a hit of healthy fats.
- On vegetables, particularly sweet potatoes or winter squash, that you plan to roast.
- As a sub for olive or vegetable oil in your favorite granola recipe. Add coconut flakes to really up the coconut flavor.
- When popping a bowl of popcorn, skip the butter and use coconut oil instead.